Would You Pay $2K To Be In A National Magazine? The Story of Megan Jean and the KFB
Recently, my band Megan Jean and the KFB
was contacted by Relix Magazine to be included on a sampler CD they include
with all of their issues, which boasts a readership of of 360,000 people
worldwide. They said they loved our music over there at Relix, and we thought
that was awesome. Their magazine is all about breaking up-and-coming bands, and
has been doing so at a grassroots level for decades.
They courted us as
Musicians, under the pretext that they were interested in our material. The
first thing I should point out is that this man's job title at Relix is
"Senior Sales Executive," not "Journalist." I wrote back,
curious what they would need from us, if we were in fact interested. Then came
the sales pitch:
"The CD comes bound inside every issue
we print (over 100,000 copies). Tracks normally run for about $3,000. HOWEVER,
as a first time advertiser I would like to offer it to you for $1,800.
Basically a steal considering its going to hit thousands of ears across the
country. I can package the track with an On the Rise spot for a total of
$2,000. The On the Rise spot is about the size of a business card and can
contain the images of your choice, text and website of your choice. The track
will also come with a 50 word bio in the magazine and will be placed on Relix.com to be streamed for free, so
there is an online component as well….Also, each track that is submitted has
the opportunity to have that album reviewed and placed in our album review section….Only
catch is, we would need a really quick turnaround…we master and burn the
compilation this coming Monday!"
Now the Musicians are being courted as
First-Time Advertisers, with no more mention of our music, or our talent. The
exchange had changed course, from feeding on the hopes and dreams of a
struggling musician, to presenting a "deal" for a first-time
advertiser. Well, which category do DIY musicians fall into? Are we struggling
artists, desperate enough to believe a well-known music magazine like Relix
would or could ever simply stumble across our music and *gasp* like it enough
to give it a break? Or, are we small business owners who know and understand
the value of advertising and paid placements in well-read trade magazines?
Realistically, DIY musicians need to be both, but Relix is hoping for the
former, which is exactly why they use this classic ACT NOW sales tactic. They
are counting on your desire to have your music heard at all costs, so they
couple it with a rushed 5-day deadline will make you jump on a coveted spot
that had "opened up," and normally wouldn't even be offered to you.
The trick is to look not at the offer, but at WHO is offering it. Is it a sales
rep, or a journalist?
I have no problem with paid placements, but I
think both music-makers AND music-lovers need to be aware of their existence in
major music publications. I also have no doubt that there is some measure of
legitimate exposure that comes with paying to be included on such a sampler.
The issue I take with this practice however, is that it's predatory and
dishonest, not only to the bands who believe they are being contacted on the
merits of their music, but also to the readership who believe that Relix Mag
dutifully seeks out and promotes the finest up-and-coming bands in America.
Relix magazine's tagline is "It's all about the music," and not
"It's all about who paid enough for us to write about them." Keep in
mind, Relix was started in 1974 as a newsletter to connect people who
bootlegged Grateful Dead concerts. With offers for paid placements in "Up
and Coming" articles and album reviews written for a fee, just how much of
Relix nowadays is comprised paid placements? Moreover, as a band, is that the
kind of music-mill press you'd like for your yourself? As a music-lover, is
that the kind of music you'd like to be listening to from a magazine you turn
to for inspiration? As far as bands considering this sort of offer, reach out
to other bands who have been featured, and ask them if they thought it was
worth the money. I guarantee you'll get a better picture that way. If you feel
the exposure is worth the price tag, and you have those resources available to
you, then it's more of a calculated risk than a swindle.
But first, consider
all the things $2000 will buy your DIY band (for us, that's 2000 cds, which
sold at $10 a piece will net us $18K in profit, a much tidier sum). $2000 is
also roughly the cost of a small online content-marketing campaign though a PR
agency, which might also be a more organized, genre-specific, and focused way
to to get your music heard.
As to the larger and more philosophical
questions raised, as to where to pour your heart out for a price, and where to
turn to for inspiration? I find it's all a lot closer to home than you think.
Local blogs at local venues and festivals, that's where you'll get your best start.
After all, it's music fans that build a career, not paid